Lamenting the End of Summer Vacation

100_7488This may come as a surprise to those of you who live in areas where school doesn’t start until after Labor Day, but we are gearing up for the new school year here on the island.

In summary, this bites.

I am, after all, one who firmly believes that God put the idea of summer vacation from school in the minds of those who originally brought it into being partly for the edification of humankind and mostly for my own edification.

While I’ve dedicated a large part of my life to the furtherance of our educational system, a system I hold in high regard, I do believe some of the best parts of ourselves have come not just from the classroom, but also from the extended periods in life where we give our minds free reign to lead themselves for a while. Whether it is hours spent wading through creeks, or afternoons spent exploring on two wheels, or a summer spent building a clubhouse, all these things can have just as much value as my instructions on reading Hamlet, or writing thesis statements, or undangling those participles. There is immense profit in just letting one’s mind go where it was designed to go, but go alone, or go at least without structure or formal interference. And to be sure, there are other ways in which we create environments that allow free thought to flourish. But summer break, with its unending days of unfettered living, is among the most fertile ground for this that I’ve ever crossed.

So it was with satisfaction that I read “Endless Summer,” Rick Bragg’s latest article in his Southern Journal column in Southern Living. Y’all need to read it, too.

He calls the Augusts of his childhood “the most endless month of those forever summers,” and then, noting the August start dates of so many schools now, he asks, “So when did it all change? When did the summers grow short, truncated? When did the endless month of August become not even a month at all but a jumping-off place for the season to come?”

As a man who sees truth, he correctly determines, “They say it has to do with air-conditioning, but I know sadism when I see it.”

On several occasions, I’ve read Bragg’s column to LCB over our morning coffee. More than once, in one short page, Bragg’s managed to acquaint us with both laughter and tears. “My Empty Nest,” by the way, is a personal favorite. We tend to see eye to eye on these sorts of things, and as bonus, he’s got the whole Pulitzer thing going for him, so intellectually, I believe crying over a Bragg piece beats crying over a sap-laden commercial (something I’ve done regularly, despite my own disgust).

So yes, I’ve liked Rick Bragg’s column ever since he began writing it, and I wasn’t expecting that to change when I picked up his latest installment. But with “Endless Summer,” he became a man after my own heart.

2 Replies to “Lamenting the End of Summer Vacation”

  1. The area of the country and the polulation always cause the end of summer to dance. The more south and west seem to start and end earlier than the Northeast. For us we ended on June 25th and, due to Rosh Hashanah being on the 5th and 6th of September, we don’t start up here until September 9th. We have a very diverse population in our area, so we get the Jewish and a couple of Indian holidays off. Other NJ and PA school districts who don’t get the Jewish holidays off start on the 4th or 5th. Having lived in NJ all my life, school has always started somewhere in the middle of the week after Labor Day and ended somewhere after June 21st. 10 1/2 weeks. 75 days. I like to give The Cub the summer to have fun and play. Some parents I know have their kids in a “camp” every week of the summer. First, I can’t afford that. And second, I don’t want him scheduled for the whole summer. He did a half day, one week Bible camp in July and will do a one week Cub Scout Day Camp at the end of August. Other than that and his trip to NC to spend a week with Nana and Pa, his summer is mostly unstructured and relaxed, reading lots of what he wants to and being very creative with his Legos and other toys. He’ll have to be at practices and doing summer reading soon enough. Let him have relaxed summers now. And we are 6 1/2 weeks in. I feel like I missed a week somewhere and we aren’t busy and running everywhere every day. We are waiting to find out who his teacher will be, but, despite the mosquitoes making being outside a bit unpleasant, I’m not ready for school to start yet, either.

    1. Wow, I didn’t realize you started that late. Do you like that schedule overall? I’d love to try it for a year and see how it works. Even just starting right after Labor Day would be fun to try. On the other hand, I don’t mind on the years when the students are done by Memorial Day. It makes that weekend all that much more celebratory. But then of course we pay for it on the other end.

      Our kids typically don’t have too much structure in their summers either. We might do a week of VBS and a couple weeks of swimming lessons, but that’s about it. Plus, we usually spend some time in the Midwest, so the kids get to see another part of the country for a while. We’re itching to take them out West too, as soon as other considerations allow it. I like taking them somewhere new and then just letting them loose to explore. The nonstructured activities, even the little things I did in my own backyard, are some of the things that I remember most about my childhood.

      I hope you and The Cub enjoy the rest of your summer!

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